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16 September 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
Providing children in need with a roof over their head to feel safe and secure was enough inspiration for Rebecca Hopkins to become a foster carer.
A friend encouraged the Natimuk resident to jump on board with Uniting Wimmera’s respite and emergency foster carer program three years ago.
In that time Ms Hopkins has grown to love the experience more each day.
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“It’s always nice to see the kids playing, having fun and just being kids,” she said.
“One of my friends had just taken a young person into their care and was really encouraging me to do the training as well, because I was interested.”
Ms Hopkins said Uniting Wimmera’s flexibility and range of programs enabled her to care for children on a short-term basis over her weekends.
“I live alone, so I hadn’t really considered foster caring as an option for me before, but I found out you can do emergency and respite care, which is just for a few days at a time,” she said.
“There’s different sorts of foster caring options for different people in different phases of their lives.”
Ms Hopkins said she had formed a strong bond with the children she was fostering.
“There’s a couple of kids who came back to me for a second respite and I wasn’t sure how they would respond when they came back, but they just came running to me for a big hug, which was really nice,” she said.
“Seeing them playing and that they’re safe, well fed and having a good time is really rewarding.
“There is a real need for respite carers to give foster carers who are doing it full-time a bit of a break, and emergency carers for in an emergency situation, where they just need someone for a few days at a time.”
There are about 11,000 children and young people in Victoria’s out of home care system.
Uniting Wimmera out of home care manager Philip Yew said during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more vulnerable children and young people who needed a safe and secure home.
“Children and young people living out of home are among the most vulnerable people in our community,” he said.
“We’re in critical need of carers for children and young people who might likely be faced with limited options during this COVID-19 crisis.”
Mr Yew said a stable and caring home was a crucial first step towards healing for vulnerable children and young people who had experienced trauma or abuse.
He said Uniting provided ongoing support for people who could provide respite for its existing carers who needed a ‘well-deserved break’.
“Foster care can sometimes be challenging, but with the right support, our carers tell us the rewards far outweigh the tough times,” he said.
“Foster carers are provided with ongoing, round-the-clock support.
“They also receive specialist training, including dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, so they can best support the children and young people in their care.
“Carers receive an allowance to help cover the costs of caring for a child or young person, including regular respite care.”
As part of Foster Care Week, which runs until Saturday, Uniting Wimmera is thanking its foster and kinship carers who do an ‘inspiring job’.
They are also encouraging other people to consider welcoming children who need a home and a family into their lives.
To learn more about becoming a foster carer at Uniting people can visit www.unitingvictas.org.au/foster-care.
The entire September 16, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!